Witches of Eastwick, The (1987)

Witches of Eastwick, The (1987)

“It’s women who are the source: the only power. Nature, birth, rebirth… Cliche? Cliche, sure — but true.”

When three women — a potter (Cher), a journalist (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a cellist (Susan Sarandon) — wish for the man of their dreams to appear, a hedonistic stranger (Jack Nicholson) suddenly arrives in town and changes their lives forever.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • Catalysts
  • Character Arc
  • Cher Films
  • Fantasy
  • Feminism and Women’s Issues
  • Jack Nicholson Films
  • Susan Sarandon Films
  • Witches, Wizards and Magicians

George Miller’s adaptation of John Updike’s bestselling 1984 novel is ultimately a disappointment. While the three female leads are clearly witches of one kind or another (as indicated by the film’s very title), the script never offers any explanation of how or why they came to possess their supernatural powers (can they only achieve magic when “working” together?), or what — if any — deeper relevance this holds for them as repressed women in a small American town. Though it’s clear that they are responsible for unintentionally invoking Nicholson’s character, his identity as (presumably) the devil incarnate makes one question the dynamics of power that emerge: who’s in control of who here? And why are these particular women granted such specific powers? Hints of feminist themes emerge every now and then — particularly during Nicholson’s seductive diatribes (“Men are such cocksuckers, aren’t they?”) — but are never sufficiently explored.

Meanwhile, the witches’ thematic counterpart — the prim wife (Veronica Cartwright) of the town’s editor (Richard Jenkins) — is provided with just as little explanatory grist. She’s a symbol rather than a three-dimensional character — and when her situation becomes gruesomely dire by the final third of the film, audiences will be utterly confused about how or why she’s forced to suffer such an unhappy fate. While the film’s pre-CGI special effects are memorable, and the actors — particularly Nicholson, Sarandon, and Cartwright — have great fun with their parts, The Witches of Eastwick ultimately hasn’t held up well enough to recommend as must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jack Nicholson as Daryl Van Horne
  • Susan Sarandon as Jane
  • Veronica Cartwright as Felicia Alden

Must See?
No; while it holds some historical interest (particularly since it’s been remade as a comedic musical), it’s no longer must-see viewing.


One thought on “Witches of Eastwick, The (1987)

  1. Not must-see, and in rather complete agreement with the assessment given. Though it is a film of intriguing possibility, the end result is confusing at best.

    Overall, it’s a rather nice-looking film – thanks to production designer Polly Platt and DP Vilmos Zsigmond.

    ~but it’s also too talky and there are times when it drags; it just can’t seem to get a hook into something that’s genuinely compelling. By the time it gets to its conclusion, there’s evidence of a sense of desperation in the storytelling.

    I haven’t read the John Updike book (never been that much of an Updike fan) but I checked the film’s Wikipedia entry to see how the novel differs. Apparently it differs in ways that are more inventive than what the film opts for.

    Among the actors, my favorite is Cartwright. True, like everyone else, her role isn’t sufficiently fleshed-out – but (as Cartwright tends to do in any film) she takes what she’s been given and *runs* with it. She’s marvelous!

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